bedoin hotel la garanaceA pretty, typical provençal mas (farmhouse) with blue shutters and a flower-filled garden, the Hotel la Garance is perfectly positioned for visiting Mont Ventoux.

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The Tour de France route frequently takes cyclists up Mont Ventoux on the route from Bédoin, which goes right past this hotel, and when that happens any sports fans staying here have a front row seat.

At other times of the year it's an excellent starting point for your own cycling, rock-climbing, kayaking, hiking and other sporting projects.

With 16 rooms, one with wheelchair access, La Garance is large enough to be a hotel, but intimate enough to be a B&B. It's probably best to try for a room at the back, which is away from the busy main road and might have views over Mont Ventoux.

We stayed in an annexe consisting of three or four bedrooms. Rather disappointingly, our room had no window, but it was very large, with a good walk-in shower and, unusually, a separate WC. Outside we had a small terrace.

Furnishings were simple (this is a two-star hotel, after all) but comfortable with a flat-screen television, hair dryer and nice little touches like Perrier mineral water and chocolate in the room.

bedoin hotel la garance poolAnother disadvantage to the annexe: there's free wi-fi in the main hotel but it doesn't extend to here.

Since the reception is locked at night, this means anyone staying in these rooms has to sit on the dark and, in early May, cold veranda if they want to go online after dark, unless (unlike us!) they have the foresight to arrange a key to the main building.

Breakfast, as so often in France, is charged extra. But in this case the regal spread of regional produce - far more varied than one would expect in a hotel of this size - is well worth it.

We feasted on eggs, artisan goat's cheeses, jam from Ruchofruit, the local preserves factory, plus Nutella and pindakaas (peanut cheese) for Dutch guests and fresh fruit from the region: delicate strawberries from nearby Carpentras were in season during our stay.

In fine weather you can have breakfast in leisurely style around the swimming pool, pictured, with views across to the Giant of Provence, and it should set even hungry sporty types up for most of the day.

The Hotel la Garance is a member of the region's "Welcome Cyclists Charter" ("Charte d'Accueil Vélo") whose member hotels and B&Bs make special provisions for cycling guests (early breakfasts, picnic lunches, bike parking and cleaning areas, etc.). It has a locked garage for storing bikes as well as secure car parking in front of the hotel.

The chief asset is human, however: it's the owner, Johanna Beaumont. Originally from Maastrict in the Netherlands, Johanna has lived in the region for over three decades, speaks four languages (English, French, Dutch and German), works with the Tourist Board and is full information on the best places to visit.

ben foster as lance armstrong in stephen frears cycling filmHer informal style gives the hotel something of the atmosphere of a big, congenial house party. Her approach to the Tour de France sums it up: Johanna waits before taking reservations, won't accept block bookings for groups and tries for a good mix of nationalities to keep things lively. "I just want people to have a good time," she told us.

Her advice to anyone planning to come for the Tour: don't rush around behind the peloton like a mad thing, but take your time and spend a couple of days to savour the countryside, atmosphere, food and drink.

On the subject of food: we've filed the Hotel la Garance under Bédoin, but it's actually four kilometres out of the centre of town, in the outlying hamlet of Sainte Colombe.

This is an idyllic setting, amid vineyards, olive groves and cherry orchards. Right opposite the hotel is La Colombe, one of the best restaurants in the area.

Sadly we managed to schedule our stay on the one day of the week when this stellar establishment is closed. Apart from it, there are no restaurants in Sainte Colombe apart from a basic brasserie, so be warned: you may have to drive or walk into Bédoin for your evening meal. We ended up at La Gousse d'Ail, which in fact turned out to be a pretty good choice.

Garance, by the way, is madder, a plant that yields a rich red natural dye widely used in the region for les indiennes and other traditional fabrics of Provence.

Visited May 2015

Where: Hotel la Garance, Sainte Colombe, 84410 Bédoin. Tel: (+33) 4 90 12 81 00. Book a room at the Hotel la Garance in Bédoin.

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